Phylogeography of a gypsum endemic plant across its entire distribution range in the western Mediterranean

Am J Bot. 2021 Mar;108(3):443-460. doi: 10.1002/ajb2.1625. Epub 2021 Mar 19.


Premise: Gypsum soils in the Mediterranean Basin house large numbers of edaphic specialists that are adapted to stressful environments. The evolutionary history and standing genetic variation of these taxa have been influenced by the geological and paleoclimatic complexity of this area and the long-standing effect of human activities. However, little is known about the origin of Mediterranean gypsophiles and the factors affecting their genetic diversity and population structure.

Methods: Using phylogenetic and phylogeographic approaches based on microsatellites and sequence data from nuclear and chloroplast regions, we evaluated the divergence time, genetic diversity, and population structure of 27 different populations of the widespread Iberian gypsophile Lepidium subulatum throughout its entire geographic range.

Results: Lepidium subulatum diverged from its nearest relatives ~3 million years ago, and ITS and psbA/matK trees supported the monophyly of the species. These results suggest that both geological and climatic changes in the region around the Plio-Pleistocene promoted its origin, compared to other evolutionary processes. We found high genetic diversity in both nuclear and chloroplast markers, but a greater population structure in the chloroplast data. These results suggest that while seed dispersal is limited, pollen flow may be favored by the presence of numerous habitat patches that enhance the movement of pollinators.

Conclusions: Despite being an edaphic endemic, L. subulatum possesses high genetic diversity probably related to its relatively old age and high population sizes across its range. Our study highlights the value of using different markers to fully understand the phylogeographic history of plant species.

Keywords: Lepidium subulatum; cpDNA; genetic diversity; gypsophiles; nuclear microsatellites; phylogeography; pollen flow; population structure; seed dispersal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Calcium Sulfate*
  • DNA, Chloroplast* / genetics
  • Genetic Variation
  • Haplotypes
  • Phylogeny
  • Phylogeography


  • DNA, Chloroplast
  • Calcium Sulfate